This article first featured in: Rebuilding Australia: the role of small business. This report uncovers the impact of COVID-19 on different industries across the country. For more insights and help for small businesses check out our Behind Small Business page.
With an ecommerce boom already in full flight, delivery company Sendle saw a sharp increase during COVID-19 as consumers headed online to buy everything from bike parts to beauty products.
Rush to online
As retail stores were forced to close amid the nationwide lockdown imposed in March, an enormous out-of-season online shopping rush followed. Across the country, people headed online to stock up on fitness equipment, home office supplies and educational items – all delivered to their homes.
“Each week was equivalent to a peak Christmas week. In April and May, our business was up 44 per cent on the previous Christmas period,” explains Eva Ross, Sendle’s Chief Marketing Officer.
This extraordinary increase in deliveries was driven by Sendle’s existing customer base as well as new customers who began delivering for the first time during the lockdown.
“One day in March we saw a 50 per cent increase in small businesses using Sendle for the first time,” says Eva.
From an operational standpoint, Sendle had to change many elements of its business overnight, including introducing PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) to the delivery workforce.
“Prior to COVID, most people associated the word ‘contactless’ with banking. But we had to work with our delivery partners to quickly shift to contactless delivery,” explains Eva.
Working smarter, not harder
Sendle needed to employ innovative solutions to cope with the significant increase in demand and customer service.
“We had a range of automation and self-service tools in beta mode that we rolled out ahead of time as a result of COVID-19,” explains Eva. “The question that everyone hates to have to ask but is most important when working in logistics is, “Where is my parcel?”
Enabling customers to launch an enquiry directly on a central platform, alleviated the burden on the support team as fewer people required one-on-one assistance for issues such as delayed deliveries.
The blog was another powerful tool for keeping customers informed. It was updated with real-time information on delayed delivery times. Blog posts and emails also kept customers informed about new hygiene measures and tips on how to minimise any potential risk of getting the virus from handling a parcel.
Despite employing additional staff, the Sendle team also worked extra hours in March, April and May, with many delivery drivers working on Saturdays.
The pandemic pivot
From bricks and mortar retailers that needed to switch to delivery-only options, to side hustlers who all of a sudden had more time to work on their passion projects, Sendle’s customers adapted quickly in the face of the seismic shifts happening around them.
“During COVID-19, we saw many customers pivot quickly to look for new revenue streams,” says Eva. Sendle serviced a Sydney gin distillery that started making hand sanitiser (and ended up growing the business in the process) as well as a milliner who started shipping fabric masks when cancelled events made their usual business model non-viable.
“Because we’re a carbon-neutral delivery service, we tend to attract creatives, makers and crafters,” explains Eva, adding that there is, however, no ‘typical’ customer since Sendle ships everything from wine to motorcycle parts.
“Our mission is to help small businesses thrive, so it’s tremendous seeing our customers experience growth over the past few months.”